MANILA – The national government is still weighing calls to lift the provincial bus ban to help drivers and operators recover from the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) on their livelihood, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Sunday.
In an interview over DZBB, Nograles said part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) “calibrated approach” on the resumption of public transportation is to slowly provide more transport options.
However, he said provincial bus operations can only resume once it is certain that all passengers returning to their respective hometowns are Covid-19-free.
“Babantayan muna ni [Transport] Secretary [Art] Tugade kung paano natin maa-assure na yung mga uuwi ng probinsya ay safe from Covid (Secretary Tugade is still monitoring how we can assure that those returning to their provinces are safe from Covid),” he said.
According to Nograles, local government units (LGUs) will also play a big role in the decision to allow provincial buses since they will be the one accepting the passengers.
“Siyempre pati sila binabantayan nila na hindi tumaas ang bilang ng Covid cases (Of course, they are also be making sure that there is no increase of Covid cases there),” he said.
He emphasized the need to have proper coordination between LGUs to ensure that all health and safety protocols are implemented before passengers returned to their respective hometowns.
“Medyo delicate balance pati coordination ang importante dito (A delicate balance between health and economy as well as coordination is important here),” he said.
Last month, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the national government will have to prioritize sending home repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs) before deciding when provincial buses can resume operations.
Roque said provincial buses will “eventually” be allowed to ply the roads once there are no longer any OFWs or LSIs stuck in Metro Manila.
“Eventually, ia-allow po natin iyan; pero ngayon nga po ang pangunahing problema natin sa mga stranded individuals, sa mga OFW, ayaw tanggapin ng iba’t ibang mga probinsiya (Eventually, we would allow them; but as of now our main problem are the stranded individuals and OFWs which provinces don’t want to accept),” he said.
House Ways and Means Chair Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda called for the lifting of the provincial bus ban and allow people to move under and within optimum health protocols and standards.
“As long as we can maintain minimum health standards, we should allow people to move. A rational system of public transport takes human needs and realities into account. These are the realities: One, local government units are already transporting citizens to and from Manila. Two, some bus lines are already operating. Three, we have already allowed people to go to work in most places,” he said.
Around 14,000 workers from different provincial buses operating in Luzon, including Metro Manila lost their jobs due to the pandemic, according to the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines. (PNA)